Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What I'm trying not to do

When I plan a story, I tend to get bogged down in the details. I panic if I don't know things like the names and ages of all the characters, their hair and eye colors, their backgrounds, their jobs, the kinds of cars they drive, where they live, whether they like Chinese food or Italian, if they favor their right or left hands... You get the picture. Often, by the time I've sorted out the details and sat down to write the story, I discover that I'm frustrated or bored or no longer interested in pursuing the idea. I've set aside quite a few projects because I'd allowed myself to get so wrapped up in the small things that I completely lost my desire to write the story; my inner perfectionist had taken all the fun out of the process, egged on by my inner critic and my inner procrastinator, both of whom tend to work hand in hand to keep me from writing.

Now, details are important, there's no doubt about that, but I don't feel they're as important in a first draft--despite what my nefarious inner mob would have me believe. So with my current project, my plan is not to plan. I mentioned in a previous post that I have the beginning of my story, know what happens through much of the middle, and have an idea where I want it to end. That's it--and that's considerably less than what I usually have at this point in the process. I'm not even entirely sure right now what my main character's name will be. I have an idea of course, and also a vague notion of what she'll look like, but I've decided not to let myself stress about having every little detail set in stone before I begin writing. I'm not even going to outline this time, which is something I normally do. This project will be an experiment in which I attempt to free my mind and write organically, to just let the story spill out as it wants to rather than force it into being what it's not. It's the first draft, and first drafts can always be fixed; telling the story is the most important part at this stage in the process. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

What's your writing process? How do you handle the details?


  1. I wish I could answer this question! I'm so new into this part of my journey as a writer, I'm not yet sure how to answer. The closest I can get is likening it to a bit of dialogue I'm writing now. It seems to be lasting forever. I'm not sure if it will read that way, but the dialogue has stretched three writing days and it's starting to drive me nuts. I briefly wondered whether I ought not just abandon the project and think on it for a little while; I just as quickly dismissed the idea and reminded myself it's much easier to edit than write. I won't always be writing this scene, if I just have the fortitude to get through it the first time!

  2. I think that's a great answer! And I agree--it's much easier to edit than to write. That's why we need to kick out our inner critics until we're done with the draft--easier said than done, I know...